Born: April 10, 1929
Barbara Lea was born Barbara Ann Le Cocq in Detroit, Michigan, on April 10, 1929. Her family moved to the suburb of Melvindale in 1932. Times were bleak in the 1930s and she had her first job at the age of 7 delivering newspapers. She also took piano and tap dancing lessons. She went to public schools in Melvindale and in Detroit when the family moved back in 1940, and then later attended high school at Kingswood School Cranbrook.
Barbara's whole family was musical and there were always pianos and ukuleles in the house, which everyone took turns playing. Her father had been a clarinetist; her brother played trumpet and harmonica. The family entertainment was gathering around the piano and singing while her mother played. By the age of 6 or 7, she had decided on a career as a singer....
Awards1956 Best New Singer DownBeat International Critics' Poll
2009 Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award
Barbara Lea has no superior among popular singers. -- Whitney Balliett, The New Yorker
Out of all the performers to be seen in New York clubs this weekend, none is more artistically distinguished than Barbara Lea...The foremost custodian of an easygoing jazz vocal style... One of the great jazz singers of our time... -- Stephen Holden, New York Times
Which brings us to the sublime vocalist, Miss Barbara Lea. A jazz singer in the grand tradition, she would be at home in any era, with any jazz group. Specializing in superior show tunes, she was effective in any setting that she was involved in during the weekend. -- Bill Garts, Meadville Tribune
A singer does not arrive easily at that stage in a career when she can be said to hold court during her nightclub appearances. Mabel Mercer was a prime example of one who did, and Barbara Lea, even without Miss Mercer's regal bearing, has developed that rare aura. -- John S. Wilson, New York Times
Lea was just short of astonishing. Closing a medley of songs from Porter's 1935 Broadway hit Jubilee with Begin the Beguine, she treated the tune to a novel reinterpretation by taking to heart its lyrics about romantic chances wasted and singing them with genuine feeling. ..The performance forced you to reconsider the virtues of a song you thought you'd have been perfectly happy never to hear again. -- Francis Davis, Philadelphia Inquirer
Aside from the sheer enjoyment of listening to superb music expertly executed, ...Barbara Lea can teach you more about music and about singing a song in one hour than you'll get out of a year of voice lessons. -- Bob Harrington, BackStage
Lea's voice and delivery, her beautiful intonation and interpretations are unsurpassed. Captivating... -- Phil Elwood, San Francisco Examiner
Barbara Lea is that rarity in this day and age, a singer whose voice is a musical instrument, whose reading of a lyric makes complete sense, who knows how to phrase and shade, has style, charm, and the ability to evoke the opulent glamour of a night on the town with caviar and champagne. -- Mike Butcher, Melody Maker, London
Barbara Lea, one of our finest singers, is simply superb in her rendering of the classics... a great actress... -- Bob Goodman, Cab Magazine
...her gift for understatement, her ability to invest a song with a subliminal jazz flavor while avoiding the trap ofbending it out of shape... She can sing I Got Rhythm as if she were unaware that it is not supposed to be a ballad, nor is it customary to whistle, as she did, an ad-lib solo in the second chorus... -- Leonard Feather, L.A. Times
She's terrific... a fine singer, with good intonation and excellent diction. She takes liberties with time and phrasing, but never to the detriment of the words. Even by cabaret singer standards, Lea has an amazing talent for seeking out fine songs, most from the '30s through '50s, with exceptional lyrics. -- Todd Everett, L.A. Herald
Her voice is mature without ever seeming old; it has strength, with a touch of fragile huskiness that adds humanity. She brings understanding and emotion to her material, but always with a subtle touch. -- On Stage
The glow on the New York cabaret scene seems to be especially bright these days... Lea is often classified as a jazz singer... While she has a jazz musician's understanding of and appreciation for music, her renditions are uncommonly direct and pure... with sensitivity, intelligence, and an artistry that is so commanding there is a majesty about it. -- Roy Sander, Back Stage
...quite different, quite special vocal gifts... a striking ability to make lyrics sound immediate... thoroughly inimitable... -- Peter Reilly, Stereo Review
Her voice has grown steadily in depth and resonance, and her timing and diction are flawless. She works by hand, and she is a masterly craftsman. -- Whitney Balliett, The New Yorker
Black ButterflySelf Produced
Hoagy's Children - Songs Of Hoagy CarmichaelPolygram Distribution
Barbara Lea With The Johnny Windhurst QuintetsPolygram Distribution
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